The Call for Papers

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Crafts, Trades, and Techniques of Early Cinema


Call for participants >>

On the 125th anniversary of the first projection of Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon (1895), this 16th international conference turns its attention to all that occurs behind the factory doors: that is, the crafts, trades, and techniques that, while not always represented on screen, shape our experience of it.

Long part of Domitor’s mission, this reevaluation of the skills and practices that defined the cinema in its early decades aims to gain a better understanding of the medium in its varied industrial and professional aspects. The art, techniques, and gestures of craftspersons – such as performers, camera operators, editors, directors, designers, engineers, projectionists, programmers, and critics – like those of the factory or laboratory worker, had to be developed in their new specificity and in relation to existing cultural and technological forms.

We are interested in discovering how the industrialization of cinema, professionalization of workers, and standardization of techniques, alongside developing technologies, led to the creation (or at times, the diversion or subversion) of norms, legitimizing certain skills, crafts and techniques at the expense of others. Such fluctuating practices and professions, and their accompanying discourses and representations, merit further historical inquiry across hierarchies, divisions of labor, and lines of class, gender, race, ethnicity, region, and nation.

We welcome proposals engaging with the widest possible range of methodologies, objects, and case studies that shed light on various aspects of crafts, trades, and film techniques in the early years of cinema.

Possible topics include:

  • new theorizations of and new approaches to craft, trades, gestures, and techniques
  • neglected and/or forgotten crafts, trades and techniques: lenscrafters, equipment distributors, colorists, editors/cutters, ushers and cashiers, barkers, benshi and other bonimenteurs, travel lecturers, publicity agents, handbook/manual writers, venue managers, industrial camera units, professional societies
  • exchanges between professions: inventors, engineers, manufacturers, users of technology
  • professionalization across intermedial networks: actors, costume and set designers, lighting technicians, lanternists, accompanists, critics
  • tools, techniques and skills inherited from pre-existing forms like magic lantern shows, vaudeville, circus; and the process through which new professions and trades developed and became autonomous from antecedents of cinema
  • professionalization and training through studios, laboratories, schools, manuals
  • working environments of early cinema and their ecologies of labor: studios, labs, projection rooms, film exchanges, etc.
  • infrastructures of professional practice, such as department positions, production contracts, the physical circulation of trade journals, the emergence of guilds and collective bargaining; architectures or organization of actors consortia, editors guilds, rental exchanges, and exhibition venues; immigration movements and labor; the division of labor, and the rates at which it progressed in different countries; the extraction, delivery and consumption of resources and energy
  • backgrounds, methods, and itineraries of inventors, manufacturers, designers, performers, projectionists, programmers, distributors, exhibitors
  • appropriation and repurposing of technology and techniques beyond prescribed norms and use (including in amateur and avant-garde practices)
  • discourses on and representations of professions and techniques in the press and in the films themselves, early historiographies of professions

We also are interested in papers that examine the history and legacy of early cinema’s place beyond the temporal frame of 1890 through 1915. As cinema developed unevenly across the globe, we welcome papers that take an expansive view of early cinema in relation to crafts, trades, and techniques.

Proposal Submission Process

Send proposals to domitor2020@gmail.com no later than September 22, 2019. Questions about the submission process should also be sent to that address. Proposals for individual presentations should be no longer than 300 words, plus a bibliography of three to five sources, and a brief biographical statement. Proposals may be written in either English or French. Only papers written in one of those two languages can be presented at the conference. Conference papers should be no longer than 3,000 words and must fit within a 20-minute presentation time (including audiovisual materials). Conference participants may be asked to submit final drafts by 20 May 2020 to allow for translation.

Proposals for pre-constituted panels of three participants will also be considered; such proposals should be submitted by the panel chair and consist of the collected individual paper proposals in addition to a brief rationale for the panel.

While membership in Domitor is not required to submit a proposal, anyone presenting a paper at the conference must be a member: domitor.org/membership/


Ian Christie (Birkbeck College, University of London)
Priska Morrissey (Université Rennes 2 – CNRS 2019-21 delegation at laboratoire Thalim)
Louis Pelletier (Université de Montréal / Cinémathèque québécoise)
Valentine Robert (Université de Lausanne)
Jean-Pierre Sirois-Trahan (Université Laval)
Tami Williams (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

Hugo Ljungbäck (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Cinémathèque française
Émilie Cauquy
Wafa Ghermani
Laurent Mannoni

Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé
Anne Gourdet-Marès
Stéphanie Salmon

Technical coordinator: Joël Lehmann (Université de Montréal)
Translation and assistant coordinator: Nadeer Djebar (Université Laval)
IT support: Lucas Hornung (Université de Montréal)
Translation and assistant coordinator: Guillaume Lavoie (Université Laval)
Website design: Anne Lévesque (Université de Montréal)

Tami Williams

Ian Christie
Valentine Robert

Clara Auclair
Grazia Ingravalle

Dimitrios Latsis

Managing Web-Editor
Colin Williamson

Members At Large
Camille Blot-Wellens
Michael Cowan
Patrick Ellis
Maggie Hennefeld
Louis Pelletier

Monty George, Digitalworx

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Cinémathèque française
Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé
EYE Filmmuseum
Indiana University Press
Université Rennes 2 (UR Arts: Pratiques et Poétiques)
Université Laval
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

The conference committee is especially grateful for the support of: Émilie Cauquy, Wafa Ghermani, Bernard Benoliel and Laurent Mannoni at Cinémathèque française; Anne Gourdet-Marès, Stéphanie Salmon and Sophie Seydoux at Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé; Elif Rongen-Kayankçi at Eye Filmmuseum; the Domitor Executive Committee; Clara Auclair (University of Rochester/Université Paris Diderot) for assistance with translation; André Gaudreault and Santiago Hidalgo at Laboratoire CinéMédias (Université de Montréal); Monty George, Digitalworx for website design; and the many persons who have supported and facilitated the committee’s work along the way!